Saint Antony of Egypt, celebrated on 17 January, is often counted as the first true monk in the Christian tradition. To be realistic, his biography and other sources make clear that there were many ascetics before him. Antony was, however, the first to go into the wilderness (about A.D. 270–271). He was born around the year 250, the son of a prosperous farmer in the district of Middle Egypt. He probably never knew any but the Christian way, and grew up listening to the Gospels read out in the village church. But when he was twenty Antony suddenly heard with his heart these words of Christ: “Go, sell all you have, and give to the poor; and come, follow me.” Antony went and did just that: he renounced his inheritance and retired into the desert beyond his village. Antony and the community he led, and many similar communities through the ages, took the words of Jesus personally and literally. Their energies were devoted to providing welfare for others, thus nurturing their relationships with God and with one another. Antony’s community apparently raised pigs to generate funds to support those in need, which is why he is celebrated (in Spain, at least) as the patron saint of domestic animals. Antony is also the patron saint of Menorca.
[…] San Antonio (Saint Antony) is seen as a founder of the ascetic desert fathers. […]